A bodybuilder ‘blinded by jealousy and bent on revenge’ murdered his ex-girlfriend’s new partner by mowing him down in his car as the victim cycled home.
Sam Spaven, 27, of Norfolk Road, Bircotes, changed his plea to guilty on Monday afternoon at Nottingham Crown Court and was sentenced to life imprisonment this morning.
The court heard how Spaven waited for father-of-two Richard Pencott to cycle home from work along Blyth Road in Harworth, North Nottinghamshire, before mowing him down in his Audi A4 at 2pm on June 24 this year.
Spaven swerved on to the pavement and hit Mr Pencott at around 40mph. He was hurled many metres into the air and died of head and chest injuries shortly afterwards. His bike was thrown over a 10ft high security fence.
Prosecuting, Michael Evans said: “The Audi did not stop. Sam Spaven continued to work as normal where he made himself a protein shake.
“Sam Spaven knew Mr Pencott. He knew where he worked, when he worked and that Mr Pencott would be riding his bicycle along Blyth Road.
“He intended to kill Mr Pencott and deliberately mounted the pavement at speed and deliberately drove at Mr Pencott striking him head on. His intention to kill was fulfilled.
“He hoped to get away with it. He has not.”
The police gathered mobile phone and social media messages which, Mr Evans said, “built a picture of a man blinded by jealousy and bent on revenge. It is not often that you are able to get a glimpse of a killer’s true inner thoughts about what he did”.
The court heard that Spaven had been in a relationship with Amy Sherwood with whom he had a son. But in April 2015 Miss Sherwood ended the relationship because she “could no longer put up with his behaviour and increasing mood swings”.
Spaven pestered her with texts and Facebook messages on a daily basis in which he “would declare his love and if she ignored his replay he would switch to being abusive and insulting”.
In early June, Miss Sherwood began a relationship with Mr Pencott, who Spaven had known since he was two years old.
On 23 June Spaven texted her: “You all messed in my life - that’s not acceptable no one will ever walk out on me like that.”
She texted Spaven to tell him she was seeing someone else and immediately began receiving texts demanding to know who it was.
Witnesses described how Spaven smashed a glass pane in a door as he left his home before appearing uninvited at her home on Gilbert Road, Bircotes, at 10pm.
He pleaded to be let in, but once inside his pleading was replaced by anger.
Mr Evans read out Miss Sherwood’s account: “He kept trying to frighten me trying to make me jump. He backed me into a downstairs toilet at one point pushing his forehead against my forehead and told me ‘I am going to chew your face off’.”
Spaven searched her house for her mobile phone and told her he wanted to kill both she and Mr Pencott and that he had enough money to pay for it to be done.
She described it “as the most frightening night of her life”.
Spaven even texted Mr Pencott before leaving at midnight
The next day he went training at a gym with a friend and said: “I want to get Richard Pencott and I want to make him feel how I felt.”
Early on June 24 Miss Sherwood woke having received more texts. It was the anniversary of her father’s death.
She texted Spaven: “I understand how you feel at the moment we are all single people free to speak to whoever. I’m never being threatened or treated like that in my own home ever again.
Spaven left the gym at 12.20pm, arriving home at 12.40pm. He gave the impression he was going straight to work but was not.
At 1.08pm he texted Amy Sherwood: “You are a bad person don’t ever forget that.”
Amy Sherwood’s grandmother, mother and brother came for lunch to mark the first anniversary of her father’s death.
At 1.25pm Spaven sent more texts to Miss Sherwood, before turning up at the Gilbert Road address and confronting his ex partner again.
Mr Evans said: “He asked her why she was doing this to him - he then changed to say he wanted to hurt her. He accused her of being in a relationship with Mr Pencott for ages. He told her it was sick.
“He added: ‘I know Richard finishes work in 10 minutes. We’ll see what happens when I drive past him.’”
Spaven then left the house and drove the 1.4 miles to Blyth Road where he waited for Mr Pencott to leave work.
While waiting in his car he posted on Facebook: “Richard Pencott and Amy Sherwood have broke me and family apart, and my boy.” He later re-posted the message after correcting the spelling.
He then followed Mr Pencott in his car and drove straight at him.
CPR was performed whilst the ambulance was being called. Other passers-by also stopped and tried desperately to help, but Mr Pencott died at the scene.
Minutes later, Spaven texted Amy Sherwood: ‘I love you for ever and ever’ and then ‘Plz look after me plzzz’ (Please look after me. Please.)
Spaven then drove straight to work at Steelworkers gym on Lloyd Street, Rotherham, arriving at 2.30pm. Witnesses saw the windscreen of his car was damaged, there was a large indentation on the passenger side and the passenger window was gone.
He called a windscreen repair number recommended by a colleague and then his mother.
When police arrived at 5.37pm to arrest him on suspicion of murder, Spavan was stood behind the counter drinking a protein shake.
Heartbreaking tributes were paid to Mr Pencott by his sister and brother after the court hearing. They spoke of the ‘quiet gently man’ who lived a simple life and was devoted to his children, aged eight and 23.
They talked about the ‘blur of devastation’ that had followed the news of 44-year-old Richard’s death and their struggle to come to terms with it.
In a statement the family said: “Sam Spaven has been sentenced for the murder of our brother Richard Pencott. This unprovoked and cowardly act has robbed all of my family of a son, a brother and a father.
“Spaven went out to seek some sort of jealous revenge for something that was totally and utterly unfounded. He did not have the stomach or the guts to face my brother. Instead he waited he waited until Richard was leaving his place of work and, whilst he was riding home on his bike, he wickedly drove his car at speed down the footpath and into Richard, not giving him a chance.
“Richard Pencott was an honest, hard-working member of the Harworth and Bircotes community. He would not hurt a fly and would rather walk away from trouble.
“Richard’s murder has left our family devastated. My mother cannot face life without her youngest son.
“Lewis and Libby, Richard’s children, have been hit very hard by this cowardly act. They miss their dad very deeply as we all do and no matter how harsh the sentence imposed on Spaven it cannot compare to the sentence imposed upon all of our family.
“I would like to pay a special tribute to the Nottinghamshire Police team that has worked tirelessly on this case. They have left no stone unturned to ensure justice has prevailed. From the bottom of my heart I would like to thank each and every one of them. My family could never pay back they debt owed to them by us.”
Detective Chief Inspector Hayley Williams said: “This was a pre-mediated and callous attack on a man who had absolutely no opportunity to defend himself.
“Spaven got behind the wheel with the full intention of using his car as a murderous weapon. He drove straight at Mr Pencott, giving him no chance to avoid the collision.
“Spaven then compounded this terrible act by refusing to stop at the scene, speeding off and leaving Mr Pencott to die by the side of the road.
“His violent actions that summer’s day have destroyed a number of lives and left behind nothing but devastation.”
Judge Michael Stokes sentenced Spaven to life. He will not be eligible for probation for 24 years.
He told Spaven he had used his car like a weapon and ‘plainly intended’ to kill Mr Pencott.